WSU Basketball: Ken Bone’s Description of “Soft” Explains Everything


Nov 28, 2013; Orlando, FL, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Ken Bone reacts to a referee in the second half of their Old Spice Classic game against the Butler Bulldogs at HP Field House. The Butler Bulldogs beat the Washington State Cougars 76-69. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports

On last Saturday’s Washington State basketball pregame show on the radio, Ken Bone took his customary spot aside Bud Nameck (basketball’s voice of the Cougs for some time now) to talk a little strategy and, of course, what happened against Cal just two days before.

During the ‘interview’, while talking about a couple of his players, Bone said something that immediately caught my attention… in the worst way I could think of;

"We use the word “Soft” quite a bit around here. We are trying to get out of that…– Ken Bone on his big man play this season"

All I could do was shake my head and roll my eyes to the very far corners of the back of my eyelids. Luckily, while I was in a car, I wasn’t the one driving, so I didn’t go careening off the edge of the road when this happened.

I’m still a little disgusted that the comment came out of a fifth year, Pac-12 coach’s mouth the way it did. Not that I don’t agree with the comment in it’s most basic form, and I can even agree that in the right context — say if in the first or second year of said tenure, a coach were to emphatically point out that;

"Some of them have had kind of this zombie-like, go through the motions, everything is like how it’s always been, that’s how it’ll always be. Some of them quite honestly have an empty-corpse quality. That’s not pleasant to say or pleasant to think about, but that’s a fact.– Mike Leach on WSU seniors in 2012"

— it can be a fire-starter. But if there is one thing that should not be happening in year freakin’ five of a coach’s tenure at a Pac-12 program, it’s focusing on simply eliminating the soft-as-puddin’-pops quality from your basketball team. It’s particularly embarrassing to know that these are now all Bone recruits on the floor. What’s even worse is that he actually had some toughness in the building but didn’t recognize it at the times he had it.

Oh sure, there’s DaVonte Lacy and lately, D.J. Shelton, but outside of that the recruiting over the past few years has been as soft as the players that now make up this Downy-brand roster. It all started when Bone and Xavier Thames couldn’t come to a mutual understanding and parted ways. Thames now starts for 22-2 SDSU and is one of the toughest guards in the West. There were plenty of pieces in-between, but before this season Bone did it again, throwing away the only big man he had recruited who actually provided some semblance of explosiveness to the basket (fr swing-man Tanner Lancona now with 23-2 St Louis).

True enough, had Thames stayed he would have graduated last year and Lancona is a situational role player for the Bilikens whose stat-line is nearly identical to Josh Hawkinson’s, but there’s a vast significance in record there too, St Louis is really, really good up front and Lancona is still earning some role minutes. You have to think the minutes would be at least double here at WSU, where Tanner was so eager to come and help try and turn things around. 

Regardless, the fact that Bone basically passed on both when they were already here… it just hurts. It hurts even more when the guy who was supposed to take the scholarship this season (JC point guard Danny Lawhorn) ended up getting kicked out of school before midnight madness even tipped off. I suppose that’s neither here nor there at this point, but with the way the season’s gone, it stings just that much more.

And so the word “Soft” still gets tossed around the practice gym like candy apparently, because there really is no other way to describe the lack of toughness on this Cougar basketball team. It all starts with the coach. For more on that take a gander at this amazingly telling and eerily funny article on Bone’s lack of adaptability by the numbers, written by Jeff Nusser of CougCenter. Or you For now, just know that the word “Soft” explains everything about Cougar basketball right now.